The Largest Canadian Study on Dementia, COMPASS-ND, nears 50% Recruitment

This year, during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging is pleased to announce that recruitment for its signature clinical study – COMPASS-ND – is nearing 50%.

By the end of May 2020, 1650 Canadians between the ages of 50 and 90 who are living with, or are at risk of developing, dementia will be enrolled in 30 sites across Canada. This large-scale, national study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and 14 partner organizations from the public and private sectors, including the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

Up to now, most studies of age-related cognitive decline have focused on specific types of dementia in isolation. The issue is that “pure cases” are the minority of patients that clinicians actually see. More often than not, patients have more than one pathology, such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

“What we are trying to do is to gather extensive data – physical and biological, brain imaging, social, psychological, and genetic information – from people with memory loss and dementia in the real world, not stringently selected to fit into a drug study. This information will allow dozens of CCNA researchers to answer specific and important questions about a host of issues concerning these diseases and may produce transformative advances leading to better care and treatment,” says Howard Chertkow, Scientific Director of the CCNA.

The goal of COMPASS-ND is to study dementia in all its forms, including cases where there are multiple pathologies involved. Hence, the same measurements and assessments are done with every individual who participates – the same MRI protocol, clinical questionnaires, etc. – so that results can be compared directly. This approach enables the CCNA’s researchers to answer questions like:

  • “What does Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) in a person with Parkinson’s disease look like?”
  • “How is that different from the kind of MCI that might be seen in somebody with white matter changes in their brain?”
  • “How does that differ from changes in clinical patterns and natural histories of somebody who has MCI that actually looks like Alzheimer’s disease?”

This also enables researchers to identify which participants across all the cohorts are the least impacted by dementia and why.

From this foundation, the CCNA’s researchers can begin to solve the puzzle within each person, i.e. to calculate the independent impacts of different pathologies alone, in combination, and their combined outcomes. Doing so will help in diagnosing, understanding, and working to prevent the onset of dementia in all its forms.

Data collection sites include memory clinics, stroke clinics, movement disorder clinics, and behavioural neurology clinics, as well as both academic and private research groups across Canada. There are currently COMPASS-ND sites in St. John, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Peterborough, Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo, London, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Prince George. The CCNA’s overall recruitment rate is now at 43%.


Are you interested in becoming involved? If you, your family, or your doctor think that your memory or thinking has changed and you would like to participate in this ground-breaking research, contact Victor Whitehead to learn more.